Wearing sneakers to work: can it ever be good?

So BusiChic. Here’s the conundrum. In the past, I’ve been an advocate of wearing pretty ballet flats when commuting to work. Then I had a fall and injured my foot. The podiatrist I saw the next morning told me to see a doctor if I was still in pain in a week. A week later I saw a doctor who told me I was overreacting. 6 weeks of discomfort later, my boss suggested I see a physiotherapist. Turns out I should’ve seen the physiotherapist first as they can help with acute (“just happened”) injuries while podiatrists would deal with chronic (“long term”) problems and GPs don’t have the expertise to deal with foot troubles. After treatment to solve my acute issues, I was referred to get orthotics made for my feet… Do you know why it’s important to get shoes that fit your feet properly? It’s because overly narrow and flat shoes like beautiful italian-made ballet flats lack support which means that you might get flat feet like me! However in every cloud there is a silver lining and now I understand why people wear ridiculously-ugly shoes or sneakers to work. Orthotics don’t fit in regular shoes – but sneakers have a removable base so that you can put the orthotic in.

I haven’t quite gone the sneaker way myself, preferring to drive to work so that I am on my feet as little as possible. The pain of being on un-supported feet for longer than I need to is unpleasant and surprisingly tiring and I think there are few things that look worse than someone who is wearing uncomfortable shoes; regardless of how pretty the shoe might be.

So I photographed today’s BusiChic gent because I thought he does a relatively decent job of wearing sneakers to work. What do you think?

Sneakers mean optimal comfort and foot support

Nice backpack: folks who walk to work should make sure that they've packed their work shoes, wipes to deal with any perspiration and deoderant or quality cologne, just in case 😉

I like that today’s BusiChic’s sneakers are kinda funky and that he has a backpack to carry his proper workshoes in. So if I ever go the way of wearing sneakers with my workwear, I’d at least try to find some AWESOME sneakers. Because you know, the content of this blog is dependent upon my being out on my feet and finding you stylish folks to photograph. See what I do for you?

Now, your thoughts please on potentially stylish footwear – sneaker or not- that you and/or I can wear to work – I need your help!


  1. I’d love to read this article but the flash on the page makes it impossible as the section of the page keeps jumping! How frustrating! It makes this useless!

  2. Orthotics make an enormous difference – don’t give up on them! While I lucked out first go and have great orthotics, it took a couple of years and several different podiatrists before my mother finally got ones that fitted her properly.

    That aside – you should be able to get two pairs – one for flat shoes and one for heels. I’ve got wide feet, a high arch and narrowish heel. Add skin that is overly sensitive, the orthotics AND very specific taste in shoes and….welcome to my nightmare 🙂

    Tips – start going up on your previous size. Grab those orthotics and take them shopping. Try shoes on one or half a size up (how much will depend on the correction needed). Once you have your new size, you’re ready to go. Forget synthetic materials – you need leather to stretch that little bit extra. Shoes that lace up or have straps are wonderful. When looking for sandals, you need to look for an enclosed heel. It will keep the orthotic in place. The heel also needs to be deep enough that your foot stays inside the shoe. The one exception I’ve found are the Westwood slingbacks in the Melissa shoes. Okay, a bit of orthotic is still visible, but they look great under jeans. Naturaliser also did a lovely pair of fairly open orange sandals – jewelled straps, fully enclosed heel, flat and my orthotics fit (yes, these I did pay full price for).

    I had to replace ALL my shoes (went up one and a half sizes) and now take a 10/41. Sometimes it’s a 9.5 (generally Diana Ferrari). So ebay is my friend. But even with these constraints, I have what I consider to be a fairly good selection of shoes, boots and sandals, and some of them quite enviable (Via Spiga, Nanette Lepore) and most of them at well below cost.

    I chose my shoes according to how much walking I’ve got to do as well as what I’m wearing. If there’s lots and lots, I may wear my Roc lace-ups (think very thick soled brogues). Or the Tony Bianco brogues. Or the green Diana Ferrari heeled boots, or…..

    Hope this helps.

    • Erika, you are brilliant! It has been a pretty sad style story for me to date but you have inspired me that there are stylish options for the foot-impaired or those simply interested in looking after their feet. Thanks for sharing your story:)

  3. For some reason, comfort and style seem to be incompatible when it comes to sneakers and me. The most comfortable sneakers I own are, of course, the ugliest, so I end up wearing the slightly less comfortable sneakers on my walk to work. If only someone could come up with a way to make them cosy but not unattractive…

  4. I walk around 4km per day to get to and from my train to work. It’s not so much that my feet would mind but I’m quite tall and, ahem…solidly built, so there’s a huge amount of wear on my shoes. I find anything other than a quality set of runners will wear out under the ball of my foot in a few weeks. My (not very) secret shame is that I keep a single set of work shoes under my desk, rather than carting them back and forth with me each day.

  5. I own a couple of pairs of brightly coloured sneakers that I wear when my toots need a break from regular less-comfy shoe-wearing. If I’m going to be on a particularly long photoshoot where I’m on my feet for 16 hours then I really *need* to wear cool runners rather than anything else. I picked up some in the states last year that are pretty pimpin! Bright red and gold. Yes, fun indeed.

  6. I’ve been wearing orthotics since primary school, and believe me I feel your ugly-shoe-induced-pain!

    If we’re talking orthotics for shoes that are nice (ie aren’t sneakers) there are brands like Kumfs and their ‘trendy’ offshoot Ziera which cater exclusively for orthotics, but they are expensive and give me nasty blisters. If you browse around, HEAPS of other brands have removable inserts to their flats (or you can even tear them out sometimes) it really depends on where you go and your taste.

    My #1 tip: flat/low heeled boots. Its tricky to get the orthotic in and then your foot in the right position on top, but once done you can walk for miles and miles! Plus they’re a smart idea for rainy days; and entirely skips the pesky shoe change when you get to the office!

    Then of course there are sneakers, or any kind of lace up shoe. I even wear orthotics in my plain old dunlop volleys for when I’m being super casual.

    It’s really sad to say but be prepared to compromise on style for comfort – if you discover some other options I will die from excitement!

  7. I used to care what people thought of me wearing sneakers on my daily walk to work, so switched to plain black ballet flats for work commuting and “trendy” Onitsuka Tigers for gym work and longer “exercise” walking. Then I got shin splints from the Tigers which in turn made my ballet flat work commute incredibly painful.

    I have now gone back to wearing big, ugly white runners (hello, Asics!) for all walking activites and the experience is much better! Plus, I realised that the only people who actually care about the fashion faux-pas of white runners with corporate suits generally need to get a grip on reality #firstworldproblems much? Maybe the benefit of aging is that these things that I used to care about so much feel just so superficial and silly now.

    • Oh Jem!

      Of course there are more important things to carry about other than how silly one might look when they’re feet are properly supported. However the purpose of this blog is to give folks ideas on how they can improve what they wear to and at work because the last time I tried to wear sneakers with my suit I shallowly thought, “how can we make this look less silly?”

      Question: if you were comfortably walking home from work and friends asked you to meet up for dinner in a nice restaurant, would you change back into your office shoes (ie more stylish option) once you reached your friends?

  8. When I moved to London a year ago, I was surprised to see all the nicely dressed ladies on their way to work wearing the most horrible SNEAKERS. I was shocked and really disliked the trend!!! But now that I have been living here for quite some time, I understand why they do it. Walking long distances to the tube, running to catch the train, being hit by fellow passangers is just no fun wearing ballerinas or high heels. From my experience, I must admit that wearing sneakers while commuting to work is absolutly fine.

    We just need to find the most fashionable sneakers ever!!!


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